Category Archives: Worldbuilding

Lumbia: A Free Sketchy Cartography Brush Set for Fantasy Maps

Lumbia: A Free Sketchy Cartography Brush Set for Fantasy Maps

If you spend any time on cartography forums or cartography-related subreddits, you’ll eventually run across folks using Star Raven’s Sketchy Cartography Brushes. You can see why, the whole set is incredible, cohesive, and you can make beautiful maps in no time.

I have always admired Star Raven’s work, but I began to see it everywhere. One thing I love about maps is how unique each felt, and I wanted to do what I could to help maintain that feeling of discovery. Star Raven was a big inspiration for me to create Lumbia, my own sketchy cartography brush set which I’m giving away today for free.

A tiny fraction of the brushes included in Lumbia 1.0
A tiny fraction of the brushes included in Lumbia 1.0

The set consists of over two hundred brushes designed for high-resolution use. Each mountain, tree, and hill are separate by design—I find this allows more custom placing than the block method, it lets you decide the look of the forest and ranges.

Lumbia 1.0 Includes:

  • 1 Mother of Mountains (an absolute unit)
  • 15 Large Mountains
  • 42 Medium mountains
  • 25 Small Mountains
  • 71 Hill
  • 17 Scrub bushes
  • 9 Cattails
  • 13 Cacti (prickly bois)
  • 9 Bone Trees (spoOoOoky!)
  • 9 Cyprus Trees
  • 10 Acacia Trees
  • 21 Maple Trees
  • 19 Pine Trees
  • 12 Generic Jungley Trees
  • 12 Tumbleweeds

The button below links to a ZIP file that contains a Photoshop brush set and a transparent PNG in case you’re using a program that doesn’t support the brush file. A vector set isn’t included in this initial release, but will most likely come in later a later version. I’m sure I’ll announce it here when its ready.


DOWNLOAD LUMBIA 1.0


Lumbia is free for any use and is distributed with a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License that means you can freely use it in commercial work and distribute adaptations. So have some fun.

If you like Lumbia and would like to support my work, instead of a donation, consider buying one of my urban fantasy novels. They’re available in stores and online, and you can find out much more about them at bellforgingcycle.com.

Enjoy Lumbia, everyone! Have a suggestion or request for future Lumbia versions or want to show me what you created, feel free to send me an email! Have a friend who might be interested in using Lumbia? Share this post with them.


Dead Drop: Missives from the desk of K. M. AlexanderWant to stay in touch with me? Sign up for Dead Drop, my rare and elusive newsletter. Subscribers get news, previews, and notices on my books before anyone else delivered directly to their inbox. I work hard to make sure it’s not spammy and full of interesting and relevant information.  SIGN UP TODAY →

I've updated my Mapping Resources for Authors (and GMs)

A New Hybrid Solution for Creating Fantasy Maps

Just a quick note to let everyone know that I’ve updated my ‘Mapping Resources for Authors (and GMs)’ guide this afternoon. It’s a minor update, but one I wanted to specifically call out. You’ll find a handy new hybrid tool from Red Blob Games that builds some of the most stunning fantasy maps on the fly—it might be the best out there right now. So if you’re working on a project (or if you’re just a map enthusiast), you really owe it to yourself to swing on by and check it out.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Mapping Resources for Authors

Mapping Resources for Authors (and GMs)

“But I can’t draw…”

How many times have we heard that from our fellow fantasy authors? It’s said when we discuss web design, book cover design, email marketing design, cover design, but it gets said most often when we discuss map designs for our various fantastical projects. Fantasy readers love maps. They draw fan into your world—and while they’re not a requirement, they’ve become expected to some extent.

That expectation is what stresses folks out—but there are solutions out there that can help! There are all sorts of tool that will get you a useful map so you can get back to writing. To help, I’ve put together this post. Here you’ll find all sorts of mapping resource from the simple to the complex. This will not be a definitive guide, merely a handy set of tools I’ve used that might empower you.

If you have a suggestion for a tool I should check out or an article or guide I should read, feel free to leave a comment or send an email to hello@kmalexander.com. I’ll be happy to update the post after I check it out for myself.


Contents

  1. The Lazy Way — Map Generation
  2. The Hybrid Solution — Easy Map Creators
  3. The Time Sink — Making Your Own Maps
  4. Further Resources


The Lazy Way — Map Generation

If you are not picky about your map but want a base to annotate consider one of these free map-generation tools. Please note, most of these are fine for personal use, but you should check their licensing options if you plan on including these in your manuscript. (I highly recommend you hire an illustrator to redraw your map when you get to that point. You’ll get a style that fits your book and you’ll avoid any licensing lawsuits.)

Uncharted Atlas

In-depth mapping generation focus on creating realistic and random landscapes. If you’re not picky, these are an excellent starting point. I highly recommend running through the whole tutorial to see how the process works. Be sure to follow the Uncharted Atlas Twitter account for new maps generated hourly.

Upsides: Unique maps that pay attention to realistic geology
Downsides: Small images, no easy way to download high-resolution files.

Azgaar Fantasy Map Generator

Azgaar’s Fantasy Map Generator

In-depth mapping generator that allows for a wide variety of themes and customization. Azgaar has a great blog where he goes into detail about his process, and I’d encourage you to check it out.

Upsides: Loads of customization, download of editable vector .svg files
Downsides: Bit buggy. Occasionally crashes some browsers.

Planet Map Generator

Planet Map Generator

When you’re looking for something a bit larger, this planet map generator helps you expand to a global scale. Simple choose a seed and then customize to your heart’s content.

Upsides: Loads of customization, a lot of customizability
Downsides: Maps can be a little ugly

GM World Map

GM World Map

An expansive generated map that allows for custom levels of zoom. Loads of options and an excellent base for world maps.

Upsides: Lots of random generations make for unique maps, WYSIWYG saving
Downsides: No customizability

Medieval Fantasy City Generator

Watabou’s Medieval Fantasy City Generator

If you’re looking for generating something a bit smaller than continents or worlds, then this city generator is perfect. It allows for some style customization and a few other little treats.

Upsides: Highly detailed, fun visual customization, WYSIWYG saving
Downsides: Occasional strangeness w/ output. Oddly shaped buildings. No zoom.


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The Hybrid Solution — Easy Map Creators

Often, we authors have something particular in mind, and auto-generated maps won’t quite work out for us. But it would be nice to have some sort of program that achieves the style we want without learning cartography. The tools below are designed for just that.

Mapgen4 from Red Blob Games

Mapgen4 from Red Blob Games [New!]

If you’re looking for a classic fantasy approach and a simple (and quite powerful execution) then the latest version of Mapgen is perfect. With the wave of your brush, you can create stunning high-resolution maps in moments.

Upsides: Incredible maps in moments, realistic biomes, high-resolution output
Downsides: Rivers are placed automatically, lack of brush sizes, only terrain

Roll for Fantasy

Roll for Fantasy

Using tile-based imagery, this site allows you to create a wide variety of maps. Tiles can be rotated and mirrored creating a lot of customizability.

Upsides: Loads of customization.
Downsides: Maps can be a little plain. Time-consuming.

Inkarnate

This is one of my favorites. Inkarnate lets you draw maps quickly and effectively, and they look good. The Pro account allows for even more customizability.

Upsides: Easy to use. Lots of options.
Downsides: One specific style, it’s a good one, but a limit.

Worldspinner

World Spinner

If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of political borders and imperial expansion, then World Spinner (subscription-based) might be the right fit. Plus it includes a neat Heraldry Designer as well.

Upsides: Focus on countries and borders for fantasy. Heraldry designer.
Downsides: Not totally customizable.


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The Time Sink — Making Your Own Maps

Sometimes auto-generated images won’t hack it. Either you have a specific world in mind, or you want complete control over the placement of mountain ranges, cities, towns, harbors, and rivers of your world. I get it, I too suffer from that sickness. Thankfully, there’s a lot out there to help make your map be the best it can be.

First, let’s start with some advice…
Crafting Plausible Maps

What does it take to craft a world that feels authentic and realistic? How much of your design will be rooted in fantasy and how much will be based on scientific principles? In this in-depth article, Brandon Kier takes you through the dos and don’ts of fantasy cartography.

Tolkien’s Map and The Messed Up Mountains of Middle-earth

I’ve always felt there’s something a little off about the classic map of Middle-earth. Author and geologist Alex Acks agrees. In this article for Tor.com, he goes into details on the strange geology of Tolkien’s classic.

Fantastic Cartography Tips From the Guy Who Mapped Game of Thrones

Jonathan Roberts has an extensive pedigree when it comes to fantasy cartography. In this quick article for Wired, he discusses the things he keeps in mind as he embarks on each and every commission.

10 Rules For Making Better Fantasy Maps

A map should help enhance your story, and Lauren Davis has ten tips you can use to improve your project.

Now, let’s check out some tutorials…
Fantastic Maps — Map Making Tutorials

Jonathan Roberts (from the Wired article earlier) has a ton of handy guides on his blog—Fantastic Maps. In his posts, he shares how you can quickly sketch out portions of your map using only a pen and paper. Be sure to check out his Tips & Tricks sections.

Ascensions’ Atlas style in Photoshop

This step by step guide is often duplicated and for a good reason. It goes into great detail explaining how you can make a custom and unique atlas-style map for your setting.

Learn to Draw a Stunning Map Using Photoshop

Over at the World Building School, Nathan Smith goes into detail about how he creates a stylized map using Photoshop.

A Magical Society: Guide to Mapping

The key here is plausible worlds. This free downloadable PDF goes into great detail on constructing a map that feels realistic. The art is up to you, but the planning is solid.

This is a time-consuming process, and to create something memorable it’ll take a lot of trial and error. Especially if you’re just starting out. But the end result is something that fits your vision perfectly. Plus, like generated maps, there’s always the option of hiring an illustrator to redraw your creation. Just make sure to get those core ideas down on paper.


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Further Resources

If you are looking for additional help. Here are a few more resources for you to explore.

Making Magnificent Mountains

A free Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop brush set I created which allows you to recreate hachure-style mountains to lend a turn-of-the-century feel to your maps.

r/Mapmaking

Reddit’s map making subforum has a ton of great advice and a lot of inspiration. While you’re at it make sure to check out their Mapmaking Wiki. It’s basically this post but with a ton more tools listed.

Cartographers Guild

This online community has been around for a long time and has a ton of great members who are happy to share process, tips, tricks, and tools with the community. It’s also a great place to look for illustrators that can turn your sketches into a work of art.

Old Maps Online

Inspiration can come from anywhere. This handy site allows you to zoom into specific areas on the map and find old maps related to that area. Never know what cool stuff you’ll stumble across.


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This is just a small list of tools I’ve tried and liked. There’s a variety of sites and programs out there for a variety of authors and more coming along each day. As with everything, map creation is about finding the tool that works for you, fits your vision, and keeps you writing. As I mentioned in the beginning, if you have a site or resource you like that’s not on this list, let me know! I’d love to continue expanding this post.

Now, go make some maps.

✨🗺✨


Dead Drop: Missives from the desk of K. M. AlexanderWant to stay in touch with me? Sign up for Dead Drop, my rare and elusive newsletter. Subscribers get news, previews, and notices on my books before anyone else delivered directly to their inbox. I work hard to make sure it’s not spammy and full of interesting and relevant information.  SIGN UP TODAY →

Writing Appealing Action and Wondrous Worldbuilding

How I Layer Worldbuilding Within Action

Over the last few days, some friends in an online writing group and I have been discussing worldbuilding in our writing. Long time readers will know that worldbuilding is something of a passion for me and my own worldbuilding in The Bell Forging Cycle often draws compliments. So whenever there is an opportunity to chat about creating and exploring secondary worlds I’ll gladly join in.

One question came up and I thought it was interesting: can a writer maintain the breakneck pace of an action story and still worldbuild? As a writer who has written three action-oriented novels, I believe the answer is yes. I figured a quick post would be the perfect way to go a step further and explain how I maintain pace and still write a plot-forward scene that expands a world. Show don’t tell, right? To demonstrate I threw together a quick scene, you can read it in all of its trope-filled glory below.


My opponent was Ver, a kudär, one of the desert dwellers. He wore the leathers of a Stalwart, cut from the backs of the enormous lizards that reside deep in the shifting dunes. His was a caste accustomed to war, violence, and bloody hand-to-hand fighting. That didn’t bode well.

Ver beat his chest and threw a handful of dust in the air above his tattooed head. Around us, the crowd chanted, “VER! VER! VER!” in a steady throbbing rhythm.

I rolled my neck; feeling it pop, and shook my arms to keep them loose. I wondered if I looked nervous. A damned kudär, here, of all places. They tended to stick to the fringes, away from population centers. Kudär didn’t usually fight in sanctioned matches. I’d need to change strategies; perhaps I could—

The gong thummed, cutting off my thoughts. No time.

“Fight!”


So, let’s break it down. Here’s what I am doing in that tiny 143-word scene to expand the worldbuilding without interrupting the pace.

  • I’m establishing the action immediately. A fight is about to go down. Just calling out an opponent introduces the tension. The pace is set, let’s keep it up.
  • Relevance matters. Don’t throw in random details that don’t serve the scene. Keep your reader focused on what is happening in the moment.
  • I begin to hint at some interesting stuff without getting bogged down in details. Everything is focused on the fight and then rolls from there. This is key. As my friend Jim has said, think of worldbuilding as a spice. Like any good chef, you don’t want to over season. Give just enough to enliven the imagination without derailing. Should any of these ideas become critical to the plot, they can get revisited. But for now, keep them lean, so the action keeps moving. But there’s a lot there, consider:
    • The kudär. Who are apparently some sort of desert people?
    • They hunt giant lizards for leather.
    • Apparently, the kudär people operate under some kind of caste system.
    • Ver is a “Stalwart, ” and apparently that means he’s accustomed to fighting.
    • The kudär tend to avoid population centers. It’s rare to see one. Our narrator is surprised, this changes his strategy.
    • This match is somehow “sanctioned.” Which opens up a lot of questions. By whom? Why? What for?
  • I also threw in some personal rituals. Ver slaps his chest and throws dust like Lebron. I find little details like these important. Readers like personal connections. I feel like they go further in establishing character than most writers realize. Everyone has nervous tics or habitual fidgets. Play ’em up.

Seasoning worldbuilding elements throughout your story can help to expand the world. And you can do insert them anywhere. The trick is to layer in your deeper world, while you avoid reveling in it unless necessary. Reveling in detail is often where one finds the dreaded info dump. Remember: in the end, all things must serve the plot.

How about you? How do you enhance worldbuilding in your own work? What tricks do you use? Leave a comment and let us know!


Interested in my other articles on worldbuilding? Check out any of the links below.


Dead Drop: Missives from the desk of K. M. AlexanderWant to stay in touch with me? Sign up for Dead Drop, my rare and elusive newsletter. Subscribers get news, previews, and notices on my books before anyone else delivered directly to their inbox. I work hard to make sure it’s not spammy and full of interesting and relevant information.  SIGN UP TODAY →

Right in the Feelies

Right in the Feelies

Last weekend, I finished reading Aldous Huxley famous dystopian novel, Brave New World. It was as good as I remembered and was a pleasure to re-read it during in my “Year of Classics.” But, this isn’t a post about classic dystopian novels; this is a post about storytelling and swag. Say whhhaaaat?

Allow me to explain how I got here. Within the novel, Huxley references “feelies” a sort-of hybrid source of entertainment where all senses are stimulated. While musing over this, I decided to do a little research. So I quickly googled the term and was surprised to learn that “feelie” was not only a Huxley invention (or a college-rock band from the eighties) it was also a slang term used in video games, particularly for a type of swag.

Feelies included with Infocom's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Feelies included with Infocom’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

A feelie was the name given to the bonus content included with the boxed versions of video games in the late eighties and early nineties. Props, booklets, coins, runes, histories, cloth maps, and much more. These started with Infocom titles such as ZorkPlanetfall, and the game version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Now, I realize that tchotchkes or swag is common across a lot of industries, and it’s something that crops up in the book industry as well. Go to any convention and you’ll come away with a haul, bookmarks, pens, bottle openers, tote bags, stickers, rubber bracelets, flyers. It’s popular and plentiful. I always have loads of swag at my table; I know many other authors do as well. Swag in its most rudimentary form is effectively an advertisement; feelies go a step further. They add a little something extra.

For example, Brandon Sanderson sells vials of allomantic metals similar to the ones allomancers imbibe in his Mistborn series. Hugh Howey once gave away Fallout Shelter passes (that doubled as USB drives) from his Wool series. In my own work, you can picture the dust-covered roaders of Bell Caravans wearing patches while on the trail. You get extra information from Wal’s notes scrawled on the Map of the Known Territories. There are hints at the history of the city in the illustrations on the Syringa postcard. These details are what separates a feelie from typical swag, a good feelie helps to expand its world as well as enhance it, they assist in making a fictional world feel real, they establish it as a place you can touch.

Feelies included with Origin's Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss
Feelies included with Origin’s Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss

I’ve been a big fan of this approach for a long time. To me, it’s another aspect of worldbuilding. Only instead of with writing you’re doing it with objects. The feelie reminds me of an alternate reality game, going beyond the page to establish a real-world presence for our fictional creations and increasing immersiveness. My books have always been seeded with a little something extra so why not carry that over to other outlets as well? I’ve scattered extra stuff throughout websites, in bookmarks, in posts on this blog, and on Tumblr. The Bell Caravan patches come with Caravan Employee Registration documentation, stamped by the Lovaine Caravan Authority, of course, and signed by Wal. (It’s also full of subtle little references.) I find this attention to details adds little extra for the reader who is willing to put in the time. There’s something very engaging when you introduce someone something tangible to connect them to a piece of fiction. To me, that is much more interesting than a tote bag or tee shirt with a book cover on it.

Bell Caravans Patch with Included Employee Registration Form
Bell Caravans Patch with Included Caravan Employee Registration Form

I’m cooking up a few new ideas as well, so there’s always more to come. I’ve been dreaming up feelies for my secret fantasy project, and I have some great ideas for the Coal Belly series, and The Bell Forging Cycle (as I mentioned, some of the latter is already out there, providing one is willing to put in the legwork to discover it.) I love making stuff associated with my world, and I love sharing those creations with readers. (I even give away swag packs for free.)

Now, how about you? What do you think of feelies? Do you prefer them to regular swag or do you find them silly? What has been your favorite feelie you’ve purchased or received? Are you a creator who has made something extra for your world? I’d love to see your creations, and I’m sure others would as well. Feel free to post a link in the comments and share them with all of us.

Fallout 4 and and the Struggles of Consistent Worldbuilding

Fallout 4 and the Struggle of Consistent Worldbuilding

[!] Note: The following will contain minor spoilers for Bethesda Softworks’ Fallout 4. Consider yourself warned.


Last August I wrote an article exploring the masterful worldbuilding within George Miller’s post-apocalyptic thriller, Mad Max: Fury Road. [You can read it here.] It was easily my favorite film of 2015. There was a lot to love, both subtlety and nuance was scattered throughout the movie despite the fact that it was a two-hour action-packed car chase through a wasteland.

Well, this last fall the post-apocalyptic gods smiled on us twofold with the release of Fallout 4, Bethesda’s latest post-apocalyptic role-playing game. I’ve long been a fan of the series ever since I played the first Fallout on my PC as a kid. So I was excited. Heck, I even went out and bought a PS4 specifically to check it out. Now, before I start nitpicking, I need to preface that Fallout 4 is not a bad game. It’s a game I have been enjoying. It’s a game I would recommend. But, I think just like films, music, books, and art we can cast a critical eye at specific elements of a video game while still enjoying the game as a whole.

I was initially going to entitle this piece Fallout 4 and the Failures of Worldbuilding, but I retracted a bit. Mainly because that is both overly dramatic and clickbait garbage. Also, because in a lot of ways and in many places Fallout 4 has great worldbuilding, it’s just inconsistent. As a result, Fallout 4 continually pulls me out of the moment. Despite wanting you to engage with the world on a personal level, it doesn’t allow us to suspend our disbelief long enough to lose ourselves in its world. This makes it feel manufactured—it’s a post-apocalyptic Disneyland that is trying to be something more. A lot of that is because it falls short in one of the most important and fundamental principles of worldbuilding: it tells you one thing and then shows you something else.

Fallout 4 Intro: The Big One Hits

First, some backstory: Fallout 4 takes place in an alternate reality two-hundred years after a thermonuclear war nearly wipes out humanity, your character—a survivor who awakened from a state of suspended animation in an underground vault—is thrust into an unforgiving and often violent world in the search for a kidnapped child. Now, missing child aside, remember that established time frame: two-hundred years. It’s important.

The discrepancy between that origin story and the world I was playing in first hit me ten minutes into the game. Up until then, I assumed maybe forty to fifty years had passed. The world certainly seemed like it was emerging from disaster, but when your Mr. Handy unit, Codsworth, introduced the timespan a lot of the following worldbuilding began to fall apart.

Fallout4_002

“A bit over 210 actually, sir. Give or take a little for the Earth’s rotation and some minor dings to the ole’ chronometer.”

When the player first emerges from the Vault, you come across the remnants of people who didn’t survive. Piles of skeletons lay outside the gate to the Vault, skeletons still wearing the clothes they died in, which didn’t make much sense. Here they are exposed to the elements, and a corpse’s dress is still recognizable as a dress? This is seen in other things as well. Many structures still stand despite little or no maintenance. Some still have power. Often these sorts of niggling details are explained away using Ragnarok-Proofing, the concept that objects in the world (buildings, robots, heck, even clothes) are just made better. So metal doesn’t rust in the same way, clothing doesn’t wear regularly, and power sources last much longer, etc. And, some of that exists, the nuclear cells powering the Commonwealth’s robots are a good example, and if that was all I’d accept it and move on. But that isn’t all, it cascades from there.

Fallout 4: Remains of Boston

Two-hundred years is a long time. Two-hundred years ago my home city, Seattle, didn’t exist. My state, Washington, hadn’t even been conceived. Most of America lived on the East Coast and had no idea that in fifty years they were going to be in the midst of the Civil War. Yet, in Fallout 4’s world that two-hundred years doesn’t seem to have changed much of anything. If fact, it barely looks like any time has passed. Most of the world remains a burnt husk. Nothing “new” feels permanent. Most settlements are hastily constructed shantytowns, cobbled together from the remnants. What civilization does exist, happens to be a loose collection of scraped-together tribes with little or no regard for one another. Compare this to Mad Max: Fury Road, in the first ten minutes of the movie we saw societies, hierarchies, and civilization, we saw cities, small and large, and even trade routes.

We’ve been told it’s two-hundred years after a terrible event but we’re not shown that, or what we’re shown doesn’t line up to support that. Not in any conceivable fashion. These sort of inconsistencies with the details continue to appear throughout the game. We read terminal entries about daily struggles of survival, only to be shown the corpses of those who entered the logs were sitting on an arsenal. For whatever reason the citizens of Goodneighbor have the means to make custom and complex neon signs, but asking them to clean up two-hundred years worth of rubble around their residences is below their pay grade. We meet a girl with a strangely thick Irish accent, and together we stumbled across the remains of people who apparently died together during the middle of their twelve-step meeting despite being in a protected shelter. We read concerns over a raider’s kidnapped sister and an antagonistic raider band, but we never get to explore that narrative. Instead, we get to fight the raiders. The results of this action? Slightly different terminal entries and a [Cleared] tag. These sort of scenes happens frequently, and as I kept playing, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was such unrealized potential. Minor discrepancies are noticeable, and because of this, the world of Fallout 4 often falls flat, it lacks the heart and soul that would make it feel alive.

Fallout4_003

It’s a disappointment because there are times where the world is rich. There are plenty of engaging characters (Valentine), and some fascinating locations (Salem, Covenant), and some interesting factions (The Railroad). Many times there are places where the game does shine. But those pieces are few and far between, and often they don’t seem to connect. Fallout 4 feels like it’s more concerned about being a first-person shooter than it is about fulfilling its pedigree of being a deep and multifaceted role-playing game. It’s more interested in creating small vignettes than a fully realized world. It wants you to strive for that next perk instead of that moment in its stories where you feel an emotional tug. It’s an amusement park ride that, while fun, still feels just like a ride.”


“…out-of-place accents, odd and contradictory vignettes, and bizarre behaviors all detract from the plausible post-apocalyptic world world Fallout 4 is wanting to create.”


These moments introduce questions in the world’s consistency. After all, consistent worlds are largely more believable worlds. In some cases, Fallout 4 is an improvement on its predecessor, Fallout 3. [See the Shandification of Fallout video.] It answers some of those big questions (What do they eat?) that were never answered in previous games. But strange out-of-place accents, odd and contradictory vignettes, and bizarre behaviors all detract from the plausible post-apocalyptic world Fallout 4 is wanting to create. They’re not asking open-ended questions that leave us wondering. Instead, they’re introducing concepts that pull us out of the moment.

Both Fallout and Mad Max are near and dear to me, and both have been influences in my own post-apocalyptic worldbuilding. Like both, my world of the Territories also takes place generations after an epic disaster. In fact, similar to Fallout 4, it has been so long since the apocalypse that the return of the Great Old Ones has faded into historical myth.

Within The Bell Forging Cycle civilizations have come and gone. Societies, religions, and nations have risen, expanded, and sometimes fallen. The scars of the disaster are there, and they’re clear and apparent to the people that inhabit the planet, but as Roland Deschain often says in The Dark Tower series, “the world has moved on.” Change has occurred, consistent change. There are certainly nods to post-apocalyptic tropes, in some places technology’s growth has been stymied, and people still use and seek out technology from the past. That’s part of the fun. Exploring the ideas inherent in survival after a catastrophe is one of the reasons why we read post-apocalyptic fiction. But, life hasn’t frozen. People have found other ways to solve their problems; nothing has remained static. Regression can only exist for so long; life is tenacious and robust, and when it comes to post-apocalyptic worlds (or any world for that matter), that’s a good thing for creators to remember.